Arkansas River Basin: Two Rivers Water Co. is purchasing a reservoir site on the Excelsior Ditch

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Here’s a report from Chris Woodka writing for The Pueblo Chieftain:

A company that already has purchased farms on two Pueblo County ditches and two reservoirs in Huerfano County is buying a reservoir site east of Pueblo. Two Rivers Water Co. is buying a farm and reservoir site on the Excelsior Ditch owned by John Sliman of Southwest Farms. The site is one of two Sliman identified as a potential reservoir location in a plan he released in 2009. It would be gravity­-fed by Excelsior Ditch.

John McKowen, Two Rivers CEO, said a 10,000 acre­-foot reservoir at the site near 39th Lane and U.S. 50 would be operated in conjunction with other water users. His primary reason would be to increase the water supply for his farming ventures on the Bessemer and Huerfano­Cucharas ditches. “It’s part of our service plan, that includes rotational fallowing,” McKowen said.

In September, McKowen outlined his plans to acquire 30,000 acres of farm ground, and fallow up to 5,000 acres to make water available for leasing. Late last year, Two Rivers also issued a news release indicating newly appointed directors in the Sunset Metropolitan District in El Paso County were supportive of rotational fallowing. Thursday, McKowen confirmed Two Rivers is interested in purchasing land under the Sunset district, which provides water and sewer services east of Colorado Springs. Two Rivers also has signed a memorandum of understanding with Monument to help with water supply.

McKowen said no pipelines are planned from Pueblo to El Paso County, however. “No, it would go the other way,” McKowen said. “No pipelines are planned except to move water to our own property in support of agriculture.”

McKowen and Sliman would not discuss the purchase price of the property until the sale is final.

Here’s a recap of the company’s activity from The Pueblo Chieftain:

TWO RIVERS VENTURES

Since 2009, Two Rivers Water Co. has purchased farms and reservoirs while making other deals in the Arkansas River basin.

Huerfano-Cucharas Irrigation Co. — In late 2009, John McKowen began purchasing farms on the 40,000 acres served by the ditch south of the Bessemer Ditch in Pueblo County. Eventually, he bought nearly all of the ditch, which also owns Cucharas Dam and Reservoir.

Cucharas Dam — In 2010, a $27 million rehabilitation plan was released for the Cucharas Dam in Huerfano County, under restrictions for leaking since 1987. Two Rivers received a $10 million loan from the Colorado Water Conservation Board.

Orlando Reservoir — In February 2011, Two Rivers purchased Orlando Reservoir and associated farm ground in Huerfano County for $3.1 million. It received a CWCB loan for $1.8 million to rehabilitate that dam.

Water Board lease — Two Rivers signed a fiveyear contract in September 2011 to lease 500 acre-feet of water from the Pueblo Board of Water Works for about $100,000 annually.

Dionisio farms — In April 2012, Two Rivers purchased Dionisio Produce & Farms LLC, including 150 shares of the Bessemer Ditch, and later announced Russ Dionisio would head farming operations, which caused Gary Barber to resign as president of the company.

Monument agreement — A memorandum of understanding to study “viable renewable water supply” strategies was signed in September 2012 by Two Rivers and the town of Monument in El Paso County. McKowen insisted that no Arkansas River water would be transferred north.

More Arkansas River Basin coverage here and here.

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